Marie’s Whole Foods in Readfield is a community gathering place focused on Maine-made healthy products and scrumptious food made from scratch.

George

Cricket Blouin had me on the first bite of her very popular chocolate almond scone. I’d just stopped by Marie’s Whole Foods to autograph my books that Cricket is selling in her small store next to the Readfield Post Office, grabbed a coffee and scone to go and headed down the road. The scone was soooo delicious, it guaranteed a quick return for lunch or dinner.

I had more time on the second visit, so Cricket gave me a tour of the products she sells. She’s justifiably proud of her inventory of mostly Maine and New England-made products — many of them organic — from cleaning supplies and recycled cotton socks to flour and chilis. Pointing to the cleaning supplies, produced by Gracefully Clean Products in Farmingdale, Cricket exclaimed, “I sell more of those than Hannaford!”

From the Bloody Mary Mix produced by Ass over Teakettle in Caanan (and yes, of course, I loved the name), to Amber Lambke’s flour (made in the old Skowhegan jail), to the maple syrup produced right here in Mount Vernon by my friend Robbie Webber, to the breads from Huntington Bread in Wayne (fresh every Wednesday and Friday), to the Perfect Pepper Jelly made by Debbie Potter in Mount Vernon and Dr. Dave’s Barbecue Sauce made in Readfield, I was bowled over by the range of great products and proud that they are all made in Maine.

As the tour continued and we talked about her veggies from Emery Farm in Wayne and eggs from Sparrow Farm in Pittston, Cricket said, “Karen Sparrow must have the happiest chickens — she has the softest and kindest voice.”

Clearly, Cricket really has a passion for this and it flows directly into her food. As I perused her menu of lunch and dinner items for the month of June (she adds one new thing a week), I got the idea that we could do a short sidebar about Marie’s with our weekly travel column.

So one late afternoon, I returned to take some photographs and pick up dinner. Cricket had said her quiche is very popular so we went with that, along with one of her soups. Linda will tell you all about the meal, but I’ll say right now that the Red Lentil soup was superb. Linda made a fresh garden salad to go with the meal and saved her soup for lunch the next day. Not me!

My favorite quiche was the tomato and smoked gouda. “I love this,” I told Linda. “That’s because you love gouda,” she replied. It’s nice that my wife knows me so well.

Marie’s is named for the mother of the store’s founder, Kathy Booth, another friend in Mount Vernon. Cricket, who was home with her children until they graduated from high school, has always liked to cook, so she partnered for a while with Kathy before buying the place. Kathy has a passion for healthy, creative products and that has not changed here.

As I was savoring the first bite of quiche, I told Linda I thought we could do an entire column about Marie’s. And she quickly agreed. And of course, to give you a thorough review, we had to try another of Cricket’s dinners!

Next up was her Bean and Barley with Chicken Sausage Soup and Vegetarian Lasagna with Beet Greens. This traditional Mainer has come a long way when he can admit his lasagna does not need meat. Certainly, Cricket’s doesn’t. I loved it and ate the leftovers before Lin could squirrel them away for her next-day’s lunch. We did have enough soup left over to take care of that.

On the weekend, we tried Cricket’s quinoa burger. Wow! They’ll make you forget about hamburger!

Prices are low and portions generous here (soup $3.95 for 8 ounces and $4.95 for 16 ounces — $4.50 per serving of quiche or lasagna). You’ve got two more days to try a frittata, pulled pork with slaw, or pasta salad with pesto and local veggies. This week’s featured sandwich is a wrap with hummus and local veggies for $5.95. And here’s the really good news: From June 24 – 28, quiche is back on the menu, along with a panini with Black Forest ham and brie.

You really won’t believe all the products stuffed into this store, where Cricket even sells used books for the local library. But it’s the friendly host and the fabulous food that have made me a regular customer. Don’t drive by this place!

Linda

Marie’s Whole Foods has been in business for years now and I, sadly, had not visited until just recently. I think part of this was because my normal routine doesn’t take me through the town of Readfield all that often, but I also didn’t realize the wide variety of items they sell. I won’t be making that mistake in the future now that I’ve been in the shop, seen the products and tasted their food!

Cricket wanted us to sample a variety of her foods, so we visited twice for items that would take you from breakfast through lunch and dinner. I had heard from some friends how sinfully delicious their scones were. They lived up to that reputation and I would give them a few more accolades. These scones are big — not so big I couldn’t easily polish it off, though. They are feather light and not overly sweet, even with large chunks of chocolate in them. You will begin your day with a big grin on your face with these!

What I had not heard about were all the yummy house-made soups she makes each week. Our first soup was her Red Lentil with beet greens and mint. Tiny red lentils made this one hearty and thick. The greens added more nutrition, while the mint with other seasonings packed in the flavor.

The Bean and Barley Soup with Chicken Sausage was also great. This one had some kick to it. With the addition of a salad this soup could be an entire meal.

Now, if you are looking for an entree that you will certainly remember, try the quiches here. I make quiche, but how hers becomes this lovely thick slice that is creamy but not gooey I will never know. Our bag of goodies held three kinds of quiche. One slice of this is plenty for dinner, but George felt he needed to try all three kinds and ended up eating one and a half portions. I cleverly saved a half slice for lunch a different day.

All of the varieties we tried were elegant. But if I had to choose a favorite, it would have been the Prosciutto and Red Pepper Quiche. It takes Quiche Lorraine to a new level. Both the prosciutto and the pepper held their own with a nice balance of flavor. It is rich and simply incredible.

The Smoked Gouda and Tomato version was different than any quiche I’d ever had due to the smoky flavor. The Roasted Chicken and Gruyere is also a very popular choice here, Cricket tells us. All the quiches were great because of their texture and richness.

Cricket wanted us to get a complete picture of the variety of food here, so she included a package of frozen quinoa burgers. A few nights later, I lightly fried the vegetarian burgers up and served them in my homemade rolls. Wow! Who knew a veggie burger could be crunchy and so flavorful? If it passes the “George” test, (and it did), it must be great. I’ll be picking some up for daughter Rebecca to try.

Our last entree from Marie’s was the Vegetarian Lasagna. I could taste the garlic in the marinara sauce. The beet greens tucked into it were a good idea. This lasagna was a slice of cheesy goodness. If you don’t want to make a big pan of lasagna, this should be your go-to place to get a portion to go!

I appreciate all the choices of flours, grains, oils and pasta products one can find here. If you are trying to go gluten-free or opt for more healthy ingredients, this is the place to do your shopping.

Cricket Blouin knows how to create some very tasty entrees to go. You need to keep that nugget of information tucked away when the temps get hot this summer or when you have company and you don’t feel like cooking. Perhaps you are too busy with work, and cooking dinner that night just doesn’t seem possible. Whatever the reason, Marie’s home-cooked food is there for you!

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.


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